Fig and Walnut Empanadas

2-17 Fig and Walnut Empanadas

Food cravings- I get them all the time. Sometimes I crave a salad, or some veggies, and that is great- my body thirsts for nutrition when I deprive it too long. And sometimes I just need some chocolate, red meat, or salty potato chips. Fine too, a little snacking and indulgence never hurt anyone. But the worst cravings are when I crave food I ate in another city. I’m looking at you, beaver tails

Well, practically every time I head home to Houston, I stop at this amazing empanada place. In fact, last trip, it was the first stop in town. I was grouchy and “witchy” after a long drive home, but all that grumpiness melted away as we stopped and I took my first bite into my empanada.

But what’s a girl to do when she is grumpy at home with no empanadas to listen the mood? Well, make her own! The emapanda dough I use is quick to whip up, only takes a little chill time the refrigerator, and is very easy to work with. Cheese and fig may seem weird, but think of it as a warm cheese plate wrapped in pastry dough. It just works. Then dollop some of your favorite fillings, bake, and devour.

FIG AND WALNUT EMPANADAS
Inspired by Marini’s Empanada House

INGREDIENTS

For the Crust:

1/2 cup water
5 ounces butter
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
Pinch of salt

For the Empanadas:
3/4 cup fig preserves
1/2 cup chopped walnits
3-5 ounces fresh mozzarella, shredded

DIRECTIONS

For the Crust:

In a small saucepan combine water and butter. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted.

In a bowl combine flour and salt. Slowly pour in butter mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until a wet, oily paste forms. Pour dough onto a sheet of cling wrap. Wrap cling wrap around dough, forming into a disk. Chill for at least 1 1/2 hours, preferably 2 hours.

For the Empanadas:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Divide the dough into 20-25 small equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a 4-5 inch circle. Place about 2 teaspoons of fig preserves in the center of each piece of dough. Sprinkle walnuts and mozzarella cheese on top. Fold over the dough tightly, forming a half moon shape. Crimp closed with a fork.

Place on lined baking sheet. Freeze for 15 minutes. Bake for 18-25 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool slightly before eating.

**To reheat, I have found the empanadas still get a crispy shell when you bake as directed above, let cool and store at room temperature, and reheat for 5-7 minutes at 400°F.

Makes 20-25 empanadas.

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

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So I was healthy for a little bit this new year at least, right?  I am not trying to tempt you all away from any resolutions, but…homemade cinnamon rolls (that taste like Cinnabon) with cream cheese frosting.

Homemade cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting. 

I know that January is meant for healthy eating, but we all need a little indulgence sometime.  Just balance some sweets with working out and healthy eating at other meals.  In doing my part working on resolutions, I recently tried a Pure Barre class, and it kicked my ass.  About 33% of the class was spent with me holding on to the bar looking around incredulously as everyone else worked out.  Phew.   A good healthy workout sometimes mandates homemade cinnamon rolls really.

And these cinnamon rolls. Oh my, these were just as good as I dreamed of.  I have wanted to make homemade cinnamon rolls for a long time, and I am so glad I did.  I remember how much of a treat it was when I would come downstairs and smell that mom had made up a batch of cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  That smell always let me know it was going to be a good start to my day.

These take a little bit of a time investment since there is yeast and rising time involved, but you can make the rolls almost completely the night before.  Because while I may like to eat cinnamon rolls early in the morning, I don’t particularly want to have to get up super early to make them.  I served these on Christmas morning, and I am certain that Santa was bitter that all he got the night before was some measly cookies.  If he had stuck around, he could have gorged on these.

HOMEMADE CINNAMON ROLLS
Barely Adapted from Lauren’s Latest

INGREDIENTS

For the Dough:
3/4 cup warm water, 115-110°F
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 egg, room temperature
1/3 cup canola oil
4 1/2 – 5 cups all purpose flour

For the Filling:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons cornstarch

For the Icing:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar

DIRECTIONS

For the Dough:

In a large bowl of stand mixer, combine water, yeast, and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Pour in remaining sugar and salt. Stir on low for 20 seconds.

In a separate bowl, whisk buttermilk, oil, and egg together. Pour into into yeast mixture. Use your stand mixer to stir together. Pour 2 cups of flour into bowl and mix on low until incorporated. While running the mixer, continue to add flour in 1/4 cup increments until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl (you may not need to use the entire amount of flour). Turn the mixer on high and knead for 5 minutes. Remove dough from bowl. Grease the bowl and place dough back in. Cover with plastic wrap and dish towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size,d about 1 1/2-2 hours.

For the filling:

In a bowl mix together brown sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch. Set aside.

Punch down dough after it has risen. Transfer dough to a large cutting board that is dusted with flour. Roll out to a 20 inch by 30 inch rectangle. Spread the softened butter on the dough, leaving a 1 inch border on one of the longer sides.

Sprinkle brown sugar mixture on top of the butter. Lightly press mixture into butter using your hands or a rolling pin.

Roll the dough into a tight log, finishing on the edge with the border, using the plain dough to seal the roll shut. Score the dough every 2 inches and slice into rolls. Place into a parchment lined, greased pan (2 cake pans can work, or a 9×13 and a loaf pan). Cover and let rise in a warm place for another 1-2 hours, until almost doubled in size.

Or, you can cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge overnight. The next morning, take out the rolls and place in a 100°F oven for about 40 minutes to take the chill off and help the rolls start rising. Then let rise in a warm place for approximately 1 hour (This is how I had them rise- you can also just let them sit in a warm place for a little longer, about 3 hours).

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake for 17 minutes, until the tops begin to turn golden brown.

For the Icing:

In a bowl, whip cream cheese and butter together. Mix in vanilla, corn syrup, and lemon juice. Pour in powdered sugar slowly and mix to incorporate. Mix on high for 5 minutes, until icing turns a light color.

Once rolls have finished baking, spread approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of the icing on top. Let them cool for about 10-13 minutes, and frost with remaining icing. Serve warm

Makes about 15 cinnamon rolls.

Spinach in Puff Pastry

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I love food around the holidays since it always involves so many desserts.  And while I will happily provide you all with lots (and lots) of sweets during this month, unfortunately we do have to eat some non-dessert food in order to be socially appropriate. Sigh.

Another great thing about the holidays in the winter season is that you get to eat a lot of rich, warm food.  Casseroles (like my homemade green bean casserole), pastry, and lots of cheese.

This spinach in puff pastry dish is another winner from Ina Garten.  I have yet to eat one of her recipes that wasn’t fabulous.  And how could this dish be bad when it has cheese and puff pastry?  I am happy with just a piece of warm puff pastry so when it’s stuffed with a cheesy spinach, spanikopita-like filling, it gets even better.  Serve this with soup or a salad and you got a great lunch or dinner.

SPINACH IN PUFF PASTRY
Slightly Adapted from Barefoot in Paris

INGREDIENTS

4 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
20 ounces frozen spinach, thawed
6 scallions, chopped
1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, for egg wash
Kosher salt, for topping

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add butter and melt. Add onion and toss. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until tender. Add garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into bowl.

Squeeze liquid out of spinach. Add to bowl with onions. Let mixture cool slightly if needed. Stir in scallions, Gruyere, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg and eggs.

On a lightly floured surface, roll one sheet of puff pastry to approximately 12 inches by 17 inches (an additional 2 inches on each side). Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread spinach mixture evenly on top, leaving about a 1/2 inch border. Brush the border with egg wash. On a lightly floured surface, roll out second sheet of puff pastry to approximately 13 by 18 inches (an additional 3 inches of each side). Place second sheet of puff pastry on top and crimp the sides with a form. Brush the top with egg wash. With a sharp knife, cut three slits on top. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes. Cut and serve.

Serves 4 as a main dish, serves 12-14 as an appetizer.

Caramelized Onion, Mushroom, and Apple Tartlets: Secret Recipe Club

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I love this time of year.  Fall is just beginning, the temperature are cooling down, and the leaves are starting to change colors (at least for you people outside of Lubbock who have actual foliage).  Texas weather will be like a Katy Perry song for the next month or so (hot and then cold, yes and then no), but this time of the year just feels magical.  One perk around this time of year in Texas are the many county fairs that pop up.

I missed Lubbock’s county fair last year, but this year I definitely plan to hit it up. State fairs are great for many reasons- one particularly is the snackage.  Deep fried wonderfulness and plenty of chances to spill powdered sugar all over yourself.  No need to sit down for a meal, just buy a bunch of snacks, walk around, people watch, go on the Ferris wheel, and have fun.

Snack power!

For this month’s Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned Denise’s blog, Creative Kitchen Adventures.  Lots of good recipes there to choose from- take a look around.  Being a snack-fiend, I was immediately drawn to her appetizer section.  These tartlets are definitely a little bit fancier fare than county fair food, but sometimes we got to class it up around here.  And the only real way to class up my life is through bite-sized appetizers.

The combo of toppings on these tartlets is fall perfection: sweet caramelized onion, meaty mushrooms, sweet apples with a little bit of bit sugar, and lots of cheese.  Put this on top of buttery puff pastry, and you will immediately feel like you have died and gone to heave.  And you will be at peace with your premature death.

No need to wait for a party to make these (although they are great finger food), just make a bunch and call it dinner. Class.

Then wash it all down with a corn dog, some cotton candy, deep fried Oreos, and lots of powdered sugar.  Because it’s fall.

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CARAMELIZED ONION, MUSHROOM, AND APPLE TARTLETS
Adapted from Creative Kitchen Adventures

INGREDIENTS

4 tablespoons butter, divided
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped
1 large apple, chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 ounces Gruyere/Fontina cheese, grated
1/4 cup chopped chives
2 sheets puff pastry (1 pound total)
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large skillet melt 1 1/2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Transfer onions to a bowl. In the same pan melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter and add mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 8-12 minutes, until softened and liquid has evaporated. Add mushrooms to bowl with onion.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in the same pan and add apple and sugar. Cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add to mushrooms and onions. Let cool slightly, about 5-10 minutes. Stir in thyme, Gruyere, and chives. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if needed.

Place a sheet of puff pastry on each baking sheet. Cut each sheet into 16 squares with a pizza cutter. Arrange tartlets so they are spaced apart and brush with beaten egg. Top each tarltlet with 1 tablespoon of the filling. Bake for 25-27 minutes until golden brown, rotating the pans halfway through.

Makes 32 tartlets.

Make sure to check out what everyone else made this month!


Classic Cream Scones

This baking season was a season of some horrific surprises.  Apparently, many of my mom’s homemade recipes that I believed to be her creation from her natural motherly instincts come from the boxes and bags of ingredients.  The horror! The horror!

With the confidence from my upbringing destroyed, I had to bake away the pain (Just kidding, a recipe is a recipe and all that matters is that what you make tastes delicious.  Props to mom for cooking anything for us little brats).  When I want to try something new, I often turn to my cooking holy book: Cook’s Illustrated.  I love their explanations and scientific recipe testing techniques.  I have yet to have one of their recipes fail me.

I have had very few scones in my life, just the occasional Starbucks scone at the airport or some store bought scones as snacks. They were all just okay, but these scones were crumbly, slightly sweet, and tender.  Want to treat yourself to a light tasting breakfast these holidays?  You need to look no further.  And you’ll feel so fancy eating these scones instead of a handful of cereal that your pinky may involuntarily rise into the air.  These are a great gift to bake up for your friends and family.  Or serve it as part of your Christmas breakfast.

CLASSIC CREAM SCONES

Barely Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
INGREDIENTS

10 ounces all purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
2/3 cup currants
1 cup heavy cream
Turbinado sugar, for topping*

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a food processor combine flour, sugar  salt, and baking powder.  Process for 5 seconds to mix.  Sprinkle cold butter on top and process until crumb mixture forms.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Stir in currants and then heavy cream.  Stir until soft dough forms.

Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead into soft ball.  The mixture will be very crumbly still but press into a 9 inch circle.  Cut into 10-12 small pieces   Transfer to baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Sprinkle with sugar, if desired.  Bake for 10-11 minutes, rotating pan halfway through.

Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes.  Eat warm or at room temperature with butter or cream cheese.  Store in airtight container (they flavor gets better over time, so try to save some for the next day).

Makes 10-12 scones.

*You can also use normal granulated sugar.

Chicken Pot Pie

I love chicken pot pie.  Doesn’t everyone?

This may be my favorite dinner I have ever made. I first found this recipe a few years ago when googling a new way to have chicken for dinner. Up popped this recipe from the Food Network made by some lady named Ina Garten. I knew of the Food Network but had never heard of Ina Garten.  I figured to just go for it. I gave the recipe to my mom, and that night we had chicken pot pie.

It. was. delicious. It was creamy, chicken-y, and perfect. I was hooked on my first bite. I love this chicken pot pie so much that I have burned my mouth every time we have it for dinner because I can’t wait for it to cool before digging in. No regrets.

This recipes is a definite repeat dinner for us. It’s a great dish during the fall and winter, warm and hearty. But this pot pie is good enough that you should eat it in the summer too (we have), even if you have to turn on your oven during a heatwave.

CHICKEN POT PIE
Adapted from Ina Garten
INGREDIENTS

1 Pie crust, or Ina Garten’s Pastry Crust
3 chicken breasts, bone in and skin on
Olive oil
Kosher salt, pepper
3 cups chicken stock
2 chicken bouillon cubes
8 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup half and half
3 carrots, grated
2 cups frozen peas
2 tablespoons dried parsley

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F.

On a baking sheet, place chicken breasts skin side up with the fattiest side facing the inside of the oven. Brush chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Set aside to cool. When cool, remove and disk card skin. Cut chicken into bite sized pieces. Save juices from pan.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a small saucepan, heat chicken stock.  Ad bouillon cubes, stirring to dissolve.

In a large saucepan/Dutch oven, melt the butter. Sauté the onion over medium to low heat for about 10-12 minutes, until tender and translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. Slowly add warm chicken stock and reserved chicken juices. Simmer over low heat, stirring, until thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and half and half. Add the chicken, carrots, peas, and parsley.

Divie the filling in 4-6 ovenproof bowls. Divide the pie crust into 4-6 pieces and roll each piece large enough to cover the oven proof bowls. Place dough on top of each bowl. Press down on the outer edges to seal. With a pairing knife, make 3-4 slits in center of each bowl. Sprinkle top with kosher salt.

Bake for the time specified by your pie crust (about 30-50 minutes), until the crust is golden brown and filling is hot.  Let cool for 5-10 minutes before eating.

Serves 4.